US President Joe Biden on Monday (November 13) called on Israel to protect Al-Shifa Hospital, which is the biggest hospital in Gaza City. The hospital complex is currently witnessing heavy fighting around it. The plight of patients, which include children and infants, stuck inside the hospital has led to Israel facing global criticism amid its war with Hamas.
“It’s my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. He was asked if he had conveyed concerns on the issue to Israel.
“The hospital must be protected,” he said.
Biden’s comments came as he was signing a women’s health research initiative alongside Jill Biden, the First Lady. He added that he was “in contact with the Israelis” on the matter.
Biden further said that a deal on the release of Israeli hostages was being negotiated with the help of Qatar.
Watch | IDF: United and committed to bring back civilian hostages
Israel has alleged that in order to shield them from bombarding, Hamas has placed its fighters near hospitals, including Al-Shifa Hospital and there is even Hamas infrastructure under the hospital.
Hamas has consistently denied this.
The situation inside Al-Shifa Hospital is dire. Christian Lindmeier, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman has been quoted in media reports as saying that the hospital is “nearly a cemetery” now as medical services are hit due to severe shortage of electricity and medicines, and bodies are piling up with little to no option to bury them owing to the fight taking place around the hospital.
AFP quoted a surgeon working with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) who said that hundreds of people were stuck inside Al-Shifa hospital in “inhuman” conditions.
The WHO said earlier on Monday that there were at least 2,300 people inside the Al-Shifa facility. These, said the agency, included patients, health professionals and even people who are escaping the fighting.
Hamas fighters crossed the border into Israel and staged an attack killing around 1,200 people on October 7. Israel has since then responded with overwhelming military action and has carried out thousands of air raids that have pounded the Palestinian enclave with bombs. This has accompanied the ground assault that has seen tanks and troops deployed to eliminate Hamas fighters.
Although Israel has largely received support for its right to defend itself, it has come under intense pressure as civilian casualties have mounted and now fighting is raging around hospitals in Gaza as well.
(With inputs from agencies)